Saturday, 27 March 2010

Chestnuts in March...

The med gull has been showing well these last few days on South Marsh East - but not today - or for that matter when I go near it with a camera! Have a look on the Hull Valley site for pics from photographers with more luck!. Further reports of sand martin and little ringed plover have been logged, but it seems last Sunday may have been a point of exodus for many of our winter visitors, with no woodcock or bittern since since Sunday, or smew since tuesday. At least the brambling remain on the feeders - keeping out the way of our resident male sparrowhawk sat in the hedge this aft - his much larger girlfriend was present yesterday also. Also yesterday a male marsh harrier made a brief foray over South Marsh East before heading west. The ringing group started their constant effort survey programme in South Scrub this morning - see their results throughout the year here. Moth trapping was the best yet this year with 45 caught, red chestnut pictured being the choice species. Pintail was the best bird of the day pictured on South Marsh East, with grey partridge near D Res. An unfortunate sighting was what is presumably a harlequin ladybird in North Marsh hide - winter obviously wasn't cold enough!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Mediterranean flair...

No bittern or woodcock sightings since Sundays fine show, but the bird of the moment seems to be the second summer mediterranean gull present on south marsh east - usually at roost time. Some good views were had at 3.30 today but the bird had predictably kept out the way when I returned at the end of the day with a camera! Various swans are sorting out territories at present on the marsh, and a startling 9 oystercatcher were seen on Watton NR yesterday. Brambling were still readily visible on the feeders along with willow tit. Smew was still present yesterday and the toads are moving in earnest now.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Heralds of spring and the stowaway...

Spring arrived well and truly on Sunday. Opening the garage door revelaed a herald moth, which was quickly followed by other spring messengers including little ringed plover, sand martin, swallow, osprey and chiffchaff all being reported. In addition the woodcock turned into 3 woodcock today! This expansion in numbers last year seemed to occur just before a movement - so I exppect all to disappear imminently. Brambling were still about, along with both buzzards. However the bittern was the biggest draw for most - showing from 8.30 to dusk immediately below the hide on North Marsh - needless to say the photos coming back have been excellent. To prepare for the little ringed plovers their island needed prepping for their return with new protective netting and cleaning. This was undertaken by the Sunday volunteers as pictured. Half way on our epic voyage we encountered a stowaway - a bank vole which had been living under the boat seats all winter - he was returned safely to the mainland after our successful voyage. Other sightings included great crested newts and a water diving beetle.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Bittern by bat

As predicted spring arrived in the form of the first little-ringed plover and sand martin on friday. However the weather and birds of today seemed firmly rooted in Winter, with the bittern showing brilliantly again on North Marsh in the afternoon - I even managed to better my video of it! see below. Red-head smew was still present on 'O' Res, with 4+ brambling on the feeders. Kingfisher and a fine female sparrowhawk showed briefly on North Marsh, and grey heron was over the river. Barn owls were active all day due to rain last night, the most exotic bird being the med gull again which was braving the territory scrap that is South Marsh East at the moment. There have been some big movements of amphibians on the reserve with hundreds of toads and great crested newts around the various ponds on site. Today we also had a joint bat box building project co-ordinated by Margaret and Geoff of the RSPB wildlife explorers and Bev and Chris of East Riding phoenix group. Ably assisted by Tony Lane of the East Yorkshire Bat Group and myself we produced 6 new boxes for 'O' Reservoir woods.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Spring springing

After three days off its amazing how things move on – a walk in the woods now reveals a carpet of red campion sprouting from nowhere. The woodcock continued to show until Sunday but no sign today - gone or just lost again? Bittern has been a great highlight for many on North Marsh showing every afternoon from Saturday to Tuesday, but no sign today. A fine looking little egret roosting on South Marsh East tonight was some consolation. Brambling and a lone smew are still present and the goosander continue to drop in to D Res, as did a mediterranean gull very briefly on Saturday – a welcome first for the year. Pintail (see video) and green sandpiper attracted to the new mud edge around South Marsh East, showed some things were moving. A very brief glimpse through the trees of a large raptor caused interest – it was being heavily mobbed by black headed gulls – they never normally bother with buzzards – a passing osprey? – we’ll never know, but one was at Hornsea Mere a few days ago. Surely a sand martin or chiffchaff should be along any day now. As regards other animals, the stoat was again on the island of North Marsh – demonstrating great swimming abilities, and toads are on the march – so keep an eye out when driving past the lagoons. Finally we had our first grass snake ‘sighting’ on Saturday – it never pays to get up too early – have a look at the contents of the otter spraint above…

Friday, 12 March 2010

Woodcock continues to please

The Wildlife Centre woodcock is still present and seems to be getting more of a showman by the day. Afternoons seem to be best when it arrives from its morning snooze somwhere out of our view. It normally starts actively feeding around 4.30pm when it gives excellent views (see Michael Flowers pic of it earlier in its stay). Likewise the brambling are still prevalent and looking better every day as the pic I got yesterday shows. The bittern/s are still showing - attention focusing mainly on North Marsh now with a sighting yesterday afternoon briefly (I have attached the two finest pictures we have received yet of it during its stay by regulars Michael Flowers (stood on reeds) and Jeff Barker (stood on ice). A stoat was also seen hunting here yesterday with a pair of sparrowhawk displaying overhead. Again smew and pintail have been showing on and off too on the southern site, with a weasel and treecreepers adding to the mix.
Today we have had a couple of benches installed at two of the Northern Ponds at popular request from those hard on walking/keen on dragonflies!, and have also dropped the levels on our South Marsh West ready for the anticipated return of little ringed plover as they are apparently coming this way...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

...and the white weasel

There are now some hints of spring at the reserve with the first coltsfoot in flower on the 'O' reservoir ditch - albeit 3 weeks later than it is normally recorded - seems bizarre to have snowdrops still in full bloom in mid-March! The weekend saw the first green sandpiper moving through the site, whilst the 3 smew seemed somewhat flighty. A female pintail has been in evidence since Sunday, and today three goosander - 2 females and a drake again returned to D res. Brambling were again plentiful and looking better every day. The woodock has been seen sunday and today, both times only emerging at dusk from a hiding place out of view. See todays video of it feeding. The fox was at Watton on Sunday afternoon and mustelids have been plentiful, an otter popping up briefly in front of some very lucky visitors on South Marsh East on Sunday afternoon, with a stoat seen around the lagoons again the last two days, and in keeping with our believe it or not theme a white weasel (not an ermine stoat before you say it!) was sighted by a reliable source on Sunday!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The orange woodpecker...

This morning we had the monthly reserve walk (1st Saturday of each month). First off were the bramblings on the feeders but no woodcock - possibly disturbed by the moth trap running overnight. A quick check revealed a pale brindled beauty and a pair of chestnut moths. A pair of buzzards were displaying over North Lagoon with a peregrine reported on Watton Carrs later on. A distant barn owl was present beyond D res and another was seen first thing near the brand new owl box on the JSR farmland adjacent to Tophill. 3 smew were on Watton NR with a fine fox. Finally someone doubted the orange great-spotted woodpecker existed the other day - so here it is in full tangerine technicolour - not adjusted in any way! This is at least its third year on the reserve.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Day at the office

No bitterns today, and just the usual two red-head smew. A pair of pintail were again on Watton NR. A water rail made a brief dash across South Lagoon. The bulk of the interest seemed to be around the wildlife centre with the woodcock on view under the back hedge from lunchime. From the office window a couple of bullfinch were present giving a good photo opportunity. A few brambling were again visible, but no doubt put off by the male sparrowhawk preening itself nearby. It had to sort its plumage out after being lunged at by a squirrel when it had landed in the meadow - not something we've seen before!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Bittern again

Another excellent day for sightings. A drake and 3 female goosander were present on D reservoir until flushed by onlookers (please don't look over the reservoir walls!). The D woodlands feeding station again held the wllow tit and numerous brambling with siskins on the larch trees behind. Woodcock again was present at the wilidlife centre with some excellent male brambling. The bittern made its first appearance of the day on North Lagoon - flying past the hide before disappearing in dense cover. It reappeared mid afternoon when flying into Watton Nature Reserve where it wowed many onlookers (see if you can find it in the video from Tuesday!). In addition a record 4 smew (albeit all red-heads) and 2 nice drake pintail continued the excellent day.


Hello and welcome to Tophill Low Nature Reserve's new blog. We aim to keep you up to date on all the latest news from the site - be it the latest sightings or work we are undertaking on habitats. For more details on Tophill Low see the main Yorkshire Water site also.